Caterpillar’s rugged new 903C compact wheel loader is low-spec by design

Updated Jan 12, 2017

Cat 903C CWL working shot - C10303396

Most new machine introductions come with all the bells and whistles. But when Caterpillar introduced its atypically low-spec 903C compact wheel loader in Clayton, North Carolina, they had good reason.

The “simple yet rugged design” of the 903C, says Jeff Brown, senior project engineer, was created for the customer who operates in a corrosive environment and is “looking for a machine that doesn’t necessarily have all the onboard electronics and things that can cause issues in the field.”

The 903C has a mechanical engine without an on-board computer and simpler, mechanical type controls. “We anticipate customers will be drawn to this type of design in this category and size of machine,” Brown says.

So who are those customers? Snow removal contractors and landscaping nurseries, ag retailers and ag coops primarily. These applications are plagued by the corrosive nature of road salts and fertilizer, Brown says. So, in addition to stripping out the on-board computers, the company also used wiring harnesses and sealed connectors designed to protect the machine’s electrical system against corrosion.

“The price point is a good fit for customers in this application class who use 80 percent buckets and forks,” says Brown. The next step up, the 904 wheel loader, he says, “had more components and horsepower than customers saw value for. The 903C has a little bit less operating capacity than the 904, it is a little lighter, but you can put on additional counterweights to get up to 2,700-pound fork-rated capacity. And 2,000 to 2,700 pounds is the sweet spot for customers on a machine this size.”

The 903C also has a skid steer-style coupler, so you can use it with the same attachments that you put on your Cat skid steers or compact track loaders. The cab features dual-entry side doors with sliding glass windows, a tilting steering column and oscillating rear axles for a smooth ride. Compared to a skid steer loader, the 903C cab sits up higher and gives you better visibility to the rear, which enhances safety. A canopy cab option will be available in 2015.

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The Z-bar linkage hooks into a standard 0.8 cubic yard bucket or a 1.3 cubic yard light-material bucket. It will also handle 36 or 42 inch pallet forks. Independent levers control lift, tilt and auxiliary functions. The auxiliary circuit provides a continuous flow detent to make it easier to operate attachments that require continuous hydraulic flow.